Somali Cabinet fight exposes political paralysis

Somali parliamentarians are vowing not to endorse the proposed Cabinet of the new American-Somali prime minister over complaints that he has reduced the number of ministers, tapped technocrats from outside Somalia and reduced some clans' influence.

The Cabinet fight — which has angered regions, clans and women — exposes the paralysis that has wracked Mogadishu's government and highlights the reasons it cannot seem to accomplish anything.

The parliament was scheduled to endorse or reject the proposed Cabinet of Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on Monday when an uproar over how votes would be cast — whether in secret or public — broke out.

Parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden indefinitely postponed the session — a move that echoes last month's drawn-out dispute over the approval of the prime minister.

Opponents of Mohamed, who taught at a community college in New York until last month, are many and varied. Some oppose him because he did not name one of their clansmen to the Cabinet. Women say they are underrepresented. The president of the semiautonomous region of Puntland said his region doesn't have enough say.

On Tuesday more than 200 lawmakers met in Mogadishu and asked the speaker to allow the vote to take place in secret, said lawmaker Mohamed Nurneni Bakar.

"The whole lineup lacks experience. They have lived outside Somalia and know little about the country's politics. The Cabinet won't get my vote of confidence," Bakar said.

Mohamed has proposed 18 Cabinet-level ministers, a large drop from the 39 ministers the former prime minister had. But that decision — praised by the international community — has not won Mohamed friends in Somalia.

"He should have also named as many ministers as possible to satisfy Somali clans. This is a reconciliation government and that is why we have a bloated parliament of 550 members," lawmaker Hussein Arale Adan said.

The weak, U.N.- and U.S.-backed Mogadishu government has accomplished little since its formation in 2004. It controls only a small slice of Mogadishu and hasn't been able to push past the firing lines of Islamist insurgents who are set up only a few blocks from the presidential palace.

"Somalis are killing each other because of power," said lawmaker Omar Islow Mohamed. "The battle about the Cabinet endorsement is not about the vote itself. It is about the future leadership of the country. If the Cabinet gets parliamentary approval that will be a big win for the president, who is allied with the prime minister. At the same time, it will be also a big loss for the speaker who is secretly opposed to both of them."

Former Cabinet members who lost their positions when Mohamed moved in are asking their supporters in the parliament to reject the new lineup, said Omar Mohamed. Some clans and sub-clans believe that they had been humiliated, he said.

Asha Abdallah, chairwoman of the parliament's women's association, said she is opposed to the new ministers because Mohamed has named only one female minister — as head of the Women and Family Affairs Ministry.

She also accused the prime minister of killing the 2008 Djibouti deal that brought current President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed to power.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since clan-based warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other, sinking the Horn of Africa nation into chaos.